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Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection triggered by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium. Mainly attacking the lungs, the bacterial infection can be life-threatening with serious complications. The condition can also affect other parts and organs of the body, including the genital tract. Genital Tuberculosis is a medical condition where the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis attacks the genital tract. The other genital organs such as the testes, prostate gland, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vulva, urinary bladder, cervix, as well as the vagina, may be equally affected by the dangerous infection with severe consequences. As per a survey, incidences of genital tuberculosis were not very common in India until few years, but the incidences have increased, affecting approximately 9% of the total population.
Mode of Spread of Genital Tuberculosis
Genital tuberculosis can affect any person irrespective of their sexes. The infectious is known to be contagious and can spread through the following possible means
- In some people, the infection can initially attack other body parts and then gradually spread to the genital tract. For example, prolonged and untreated tuberculosis of the lungs may trigger genital tuberculosis in females.
- The bacterial infection can also spread from an infected person through their nasal droppings, cough (in the case of pulmonary tuberculosis).
- Being in close physical proximity (such as shaking hands, sharing food or even sexual intercourse) to a person suffering from tuberculosis can also spread the infection.
Symptoms of Genital Tuberculosis:
There are no characteristic symptoms or early signs associated with Genital Tuberculosis. In fact, in many cases, the infection is said to be latent where the bacterial attack will not result in any subsequent infection. However, a person with Genital Tuberculosis may complain of the following complications.
- Pain in the pelvic region.
- Bleeding may be observed after having sex.
- Menstrual problems, such as irregular periods, heavy vaginal discharge (often blood stained). In some women, the infection left untreated can cause the menses to stop completely, making it a traumatizing experience.
- Women with genital tuberculosis may find it difficult to conceive (when the condition affects the fallopian tube, ovaries, and the uterus).
It is needless to say that if any of the mentioned symptoms persist for long, waste no time and consult a physician at the earliest. Timely medical intervention may help to alleviate some of the harmful consequences associated with the condition.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis of genital tuberculosis include
- A tuberculin skin test.
- The doctor may also recommend an examination of the menstrual blood to understand the condition better.
- An ultrasound of the pelvic area, cervical smear analysis or endometrial curettage can also be used in the diagnosis.
- Laparoscopic as well as an endoscopic study of the genital organs for a more accurate diagnosis.
The treatment for genital tuberculosis involves the administration of anti-TB drugs (in two phases as per DOTS initiative).
In the first stage, three anti-TB drugs are given to the patient over a span of 2 months. The next stage includes administration of at least two anti-TB drugs continued over a span of 4-10 months.